How to Restore Wooden Doors

Revive the beauty of your wooden doors and save yourself the cost of replacing them by restoring them to their former glory. If your doors are less than welcoming, damaged by sun, water, wear-and-tear, etc., painting or restaining the wood will give your room or front entrance a dramatic upgrade. To paint or to stain is the question: paint tends to hold up better outdoors, but stain brings out the natural beauty of the wood. So decide on the look you’re going for, what conditions the door will weather, and let the restoration begin.

Doors make a statement about your home so keep them beautiful through maintenance.

Step 1

Paint can add a lot of character to your door.

Remove the door by taking out the hinge pins. Put your drop cloths under the sawhorses and lay the door flat between the two sawhorses. Remove the hardware.

Step 2

Restoring a door can make your home more inviting.

Strip the paint with a paint stripper (follow the manufacturer’s instructions) if the door is painted. If the door is stained, use a palm sander with fine-grit sandpaper (220 or 240) and lightly sand the door. Brush off the dust with a bench brush and wipe the door with a tack cloth. If you’re staining, go to step 6.

Step 3

Scrape off the paint after leaving the stripping compound on for the appropriate length of time (follow the directions on the label) using a scraper tool. Repeat steps 2 and 3 until the wood is exposed.

Step 4

Neutralize the paint stripper as directed on the paint stripper neutralizer instructions.

Step 5

Painting wooden doors gives you a lot of options for adding color.

Sand the door to remove the last bits of paint and smooth out any rough spots. Brush off the dust with a bench brush and wipe the door with a tack cloth.

Step 6

Inspect the wood for areas of damage. Remove any rotted areas or old wood filler with a chisel or scraper and apply a wood stabilizer, following the instructions on the label.

Step 7

Condition the wood with a wood conditioner (follow the directions on the label) if you’re staining. If you’re painting, apply a coat of primer to the door. Let dry. If the primer doesn’t cover well, lightly sand the door with a fine-grit sand paper (220 or 240-grit), remove the dust and apply a second coat. Let dry.

Step 8

Lightly sand the conditioned or primed wood with fine-grit sandpaper and remove all the dust.

Step 9

Apply two coats of enamel or stain, sanding lightly, removing the dust and drying completely in between coats.

Step 10

Interesting hardware can liven up your entryway.

Apply at least two coats of high-quality marine or spar varnish if you’re staining an outside door. Replace the door hardware and remount your door.


  • Always wear safety glasses and a mask when sanding or using chemical stripping compounds.
  • Work in a well-ventilated area.
  • Dispose of cloths and leftover materials following instructions on the label and according to local waste-management ordinances.
  • Paint, stain and stripping compounds are highly flammable.
  • Clean your tools following instructions on material labels.

About the Author

Based in California, Tracie Grimes began writing in the medical field in 1984. She has since expanded her areas of expertise to include DIY projects, parenting and craft articles. She is a monthly contributor to "Kern County Family Magazine" and "Bakersfield Magazine," with work also appearing in parenting magazines across the United States. Grimes received her bachelor's degree in journalism from Northern Arizona University.